Last night I could not resist the Siren’s call of… the idea of baking eggs in tomato sauce. (This was all planted in my head by Ris, who reported that she had baked an egg in cream the night before.) Even though my kitchen already felt like an oven. And I wasn’t sure how to handle the yolk issue, if the yolks were to be runny and inseparable from the whites.
So I walked to my local Trader Joe’s, and on the way I had the potentially brilliant (and somewhat scientific) idea to use two whole eggs and two egg whites. If either side turned out weird, I’d have backup. (I was actually going to make them in separate pans, but it didn’t end up making as much sense to do that.)
I only bought three ingredients (and some lettuce), but they turned out to be fairly hefty ones to carry home.
Ris had recommended Trader Joe’s par-baked bread, but as I was grabbing it this French-sounding guy (he was in his 20s or 30s, tall with red hair — if you need a visual) came up behind me with this older-than-him woman and said, “We will need bread, but this is not the good bread.” Curious, I put down that par-baked loaf and followed him to another bread section. I’m not actually sure if he grabbed the same exact one as this (the wheat Tuscan bread), but I figured it’s always good to have crusty sliced bread in the freezer (I have a cookbook for working women that told me so).
I mean, if a snobby-sounding French person is dishing out some food wisdom, why not take it? (Later I heard him telling the woman that the rigatoni at Trader Joe’s is better than Barilla. I actually think that about their angel hair, too. Anyway.) (I’m not really sure if he was cooking a friendly meal for her or, like, teaching her how to make dinner?)
So then I walked home, where — well, I forgot to mention that this dish is also called “Eggs in Purgatory.” Which is appropriate, because my kitchen basically felt like purgatory. I was sweating before I even turned on the oven.
I basically decided to wing the dish. I don’t like spicy, so the Tabasco was out. The Serious Eats recipe (linked above) left out the critical adding-the-eggs step (literally, Step 2 is blank), so I decided on my own that the sauce should probably be a little warm when I added the eggs. So as the oven was heating, I stuck my (round cake) pan into the oven to let the sauce heat.
My oven takes forever to heat (I have a little thermometer in there). At around 300 degrees (waiting for 375) I pulled the sauce pan’s rack out and cracked the eggs in. You can kiiind of see the egg whites in there. But yeah, I should have let the oven heat more. I guess.
So it was supposed to cook for 10 minutes, then add the bread to toast it, then remove it all after 5 minutes.
Well… the just-egg-whites cooked really well, but the whole eggs’ whites took forever to set around the yolks. Stupid yolks. (Also: stupid oven.) (Also: It’s really hard to talk about how you only eat egg whites without accidentally typing something that would sound vaguely racist, out of context.)
You can see that the egg whites have sort of run amok.
The bread was very well behaved, though.
I think I ended up cooking the eggs for at least 5 minutes longer than the recipe called for (I also turned the oven up to 400 degrees to try to get the thermometer up to 375). The yolks were supposed to be runny but the whites were supposed to set, and I didn’t want to take my chance with raw eggs.
Long story short, I believe I overcooked it a bit. (I KNOW I did, because when I finally examined the yolks, they were not runny… one resembled the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. And the other was just… creepy.) I’m thinking I probably should have been okay with the not-quite-set whites around the yolks, because they would have kept cooking (from the heat) after I removed them from the oven.
BUT when scooped the egg whites (from the non-yolk side) over the toasty bread and surrounded with a generous scoop of sauce, I couldn’t complain. (I sprinkled salt, black pepper, some dried basil, and grated TJ’s Parmigiano Reggiano on top.)
I’m honestly still not sure what a baked egg tastes like, since I only ate whites, and the whole runny yolk thing is probably the piece de resistance. There was a maybe-cooked-right bit of egg that tasted kind of globby? And I worried that it might not be cooked enough? I don’t know — taste-wise, egg whites kind of are what they are. But it was fun to make. I felt like a gourmet. Sorta.
One of the best parts was that I reserved the little piece of bread and just ate it with butter melting into it. Ah, the simple pleasures. (And there’s more bread where that came from!) (A LOT more.)
I saved the tomato sauce and managed to separate the yolks out, so I have the whites from the two whole eggs for later. So… nothing was wasted. And once the eggs are gone, I can eat the sauce with a nice pasta and/or more bread.
Anyway. It was fun to make eggs for dinner, in a non-omelet way. For some reason omelets for dinner tend to bum me out. (UNLESS they are from a great diner.)
I will probably make this again to impress somebody (I mean, look at the presentation). Or if I have sauce, eggs, and crusty bread that I needed to use. (And now I have crusty bread in my freezer for whenever I might need it — like a real woman-on-the-go!)
Or, you know — if I want to improve at baking eggs.
Overall, in terms of time spent, relative healthiness, taste, etc — I’d chalk this up as a pretty successful experiment/dinner.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the title — eggs whites have protein and vegans consider them verboten, so they’re sort of like meat? Right? Right?